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Current Culture in Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” Story

“The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” is a fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin. Through the elaborated imagery of reflective narration, the author explores urgent moral issues still relevant to our society. This paper aims to apply Le Guin’s short fiction to the cultural analysis of our modern society.

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The story is setthein a fictional city of Omelas, where citizens enjoy prosperity, peace, and happiness. This setting is rich in utopian elements (Mamola), but they evolve into social criticism of hypocrisy and lack of empathy. The suffering of an innocent child pays for the happiness of citizens who are conscious of the situation: “They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas” (Le Guin 5). Most characters avoid questioning this sacrifice; moreover, they openly accept this state of affairs.

The author goes even further, showing that they find the sufferings of the child necessary. It guarantees their stability: “Some of them have come to see it; others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there” (Le Guin 5). The author is highly critical of the cynical social practices of exclusion and silencing when urgent social problems remain unaddressed and even institutionalized.

On the other hand, Le Guin shows that these issues are challenging to change from the inside. Those who cannot accept the sacrifice do not fight to improve the situation from the inside. They prefer to leave the city, and the narrator does not identify their destination: “I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist” (Le Guin 7). This quotation shows that the social problem of suffering and injustice has no definite solution.

In her short story, Le Guin depicts a range of individual reactions to a burning social issue, and people mostly tend to accept violence as a necessary evil. A parallel can be drawn with modern responses to violence, injustice, and poverty, which are silenced as long as they do not disturb the majority’s balance. The act of taking responsibility and facing the situation often results in self-exclusion from society instead of changing it.

References

Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

Mamola, Gabriel. Walking Towards Elfland: Fantasy and Utopia in Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Extrapolation, vol. 59, no. 2, 2018.

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StudyCorgi. "Current Culture in Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” Story." April 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/current-culture-in-le-guins-the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas-story/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Current Culture in Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” Story." April 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/current-culture-in-le-guins-the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas-story/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Current Culture in Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” Story'. 21 April.

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